Dr. Chang C. Chen: Herstory: A Legal History of Chinese-American Women

Herstory documents the legal history of Chinese American women. The content of the exhibition is derived from U.S. Supreme Court cases, various state Supreme Court cases, and cases fought by Chinese American women who disproved the ancient Chinese saying “Only unpleasant endings emerge from lawsuits.“ Their courage has forged the way for Chinese American women to gain basic legal standing in the US.

Starting in 1852, the cases document women who fought for equal treatment in the eyes of the law, as well as citizenship and immigration rights. A San Francisco case in 1874 describes how a group of recent immigrants were set to be deported because they were labeled as “lewd and immoral” merely because of their style of dress. The women took this injustice to court and the Supreme Court ruled in their favor, stating that California laws were in conflict with the federal immigration laws, and the women were released. 

In 2015, 23 year old Chanel Miller, the daughter of a Chinese immigrant, was raped by Brock Turner, a Stanford student. Turner was convicted of three sexual assault charges and was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment--a sentence which sparked public outrage due to its leniency. In 2018, Sentencing Judge Persky was recalled by 61.51% votes in Santa Clara County. The Turner case prompted the California State Legislature to pass two bills that changed California state law on sexual assault.

Chinese American women also started to gain a voice by running for public office. In 1983, Lily Lee Chen became the first Chinese American woman mayor of Monterey Park, California. Today, we have two Congresswomen in the House of Representatives and many more women are legislators for  states, counties and cities.

All in all, the Herstory exhibition is about extraordinary women who fought for their rights and in doing so helped shape a new America for all. 


Dr. Chang C Chen, aka Dr. Chiu Chang (邱彰) has authored more than 72 books, whose topics range from law to marriage, Herstory-the Legal History of Chinese American Women is her first book in English and the first exhibition she ever curated.  

It took her six painstaking years to research, but in actuality, Dr. Chiu has been preparing for the Herstory exhibition her whole life. 

Dr. Chiu grew up in Taiwan and immigrated to America 50 years ago to pursue her graduate studies. After obtaining her Ph.D in biochemistry from Rutgers University and J.D. from Columbia University Law School, she launched an illustrious legal career spanning 35 years. One of her most notorious and victorious lawsuits was a pro bono case where she negotiated against the banks on behalf of 250 Taiwan families who had purchased Lehman Brothers junk bonds. The Taiwan Bar Association then prosecuted her for her good deed, which they alleged to be “illegal practice of Taiwan law”. Dr. Chiu prevailed in both the Taiwan District Court and the Appellate Court. 

Not one to just practice law, she was elected to be a Taiwan senator and hosted four television shows. During the 1990s, her most popular program “Chiu Chang Talking Law” on Star-TV in Hong Kong catapulted her into the limelight. She swiftly became a celebrity female attorney and personality, still to this day a real feat in Taiwan.

This exhibition is the second of the Herstory series she has curated. What started as a small personal project for Dr. Chiu snowballed into a global sensation. International libraries and museums around the globe, from Taiwan, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Hawaii, New York and more, have showcased Herstory. When she started this project, a search in the index of the Library of Congress for the phrase “Chinese American Women” yielded not a single result. Now, thanks to Herstory, tens of thousands of entries exist. Dr. Chiu is humbled, due to her efforts, Chinese American women have secured their place in history.

On exhibit at Spring Valley Library from May 2 through June 27, 2023

Reception: Friday, May 5 from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.


Monday: 10:00AM – 8:00PM
Tuesday: 10:00AM – 8:00PM
Wednesday: 10:00AM – 8:00PM
Thursday: 10:00AM – 8:00PM
Friday: 10:00AM – 6:00PM
Saturday: 10:00AM – 6:00PM
Sunday: 10:00AM – 6:00PM